It’s an exciting and scary time to be a working professional. The prevalence of technology has created many opportunities that didn’t exist several years ago, such as remote careers and jobs in new industries. At the same time, it has also created disruption—industries are shrinking and growing at an exponential speed. Unfortunately, that often leads to what we know as a layoff. And while some sectors may be more vulnerable than others, no job is 100% immune.
That’s why when it comes to managing your career, career experts recommend being proactive instead of reactive. Cynthia Pong, a former attorney turned career coach for mid-career women of color professionals, has some advice on how to build the foundations for a thriving career in a landscape that’s shifting every day. Discover five ways to layoff proof your career, below:
1. Develop and strengthen your transferable skills
There’s a reason why many of the literature surrounding the future of work emphasizes the importance of ‘soft-skills.’ First, skills like communication, emotional intelligence, problem-solving, critical thinking, and the ability to lead can’t be outsourced to robots. They are also transferable across industries. Pong says that while some of these might appear cliché, not everyone can communicate well with others. The same goes for problem-solving and critical thinking—”Being able to look at something, analyze it, try to troubleshoot through it and come up with a solution.” Whether you work in sales or data science, these are the kinds of skills that make you valuable to an employer, decreasing the chances of a layoff.
2. Cultivate a growth mindset
One of the most significant barriers that Pong sees among her clients is a fear of change and a reluctance to imagine themselves adapting to that change. For those who are fearful of the unknown, Pong recommends that they learn to cultivate a ‘growth’ mindset. Rather than seeing their intelligence, creativity, and intelligence as a ‘fixed’ characteristic, they should learn to see it as something malleable that they can improve over time.
3. Build a portfolio of your work
In a world where company loyalty isn’t as valued as it once was, Pong recommends that every professional should strive to create a portfolio of independent work or project. It’s essential to have a body of work that’s “separate from any organization or employer,” says Pong. Having a portfolio of high-quality work can help you become the ‘go-to’ person in your field.
4. Identify your niche and competitive advantage
Many people cringe at the idea of building a personal brand, but Pong says that this is important if you want to be known as an expert in your industry. “It requires some introspective work to be like, what do I want to be known for? What can I uniquely bring to my work? That way, people will start to see you as an expert of such and such a niche.”
5. Look beyond your industry
Lastly, Pong recommends that it’s never too early to start ‘planting the seeds.’ “You can start building relationships with people and not put all your eggs in one basket. Talk to people who are not in your industry. Things like that, you really can’t do that last minute. It takes time to build trust. It takes time to build relationships.”
By looking outside of your immediate circle, you open yourself to the opportunity of landing work that is at the intersection of your field and other industries. Says Pong, “Then you can be in new and emerging spaces, which can really help lure you from one thing to another.”